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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 3) – Multi-million kina investments in the Wau-Bulolo area of Morobe province are under threat of being cut off from Lae and the rest of the world by a troublesome river.

[PIR editor’s note: Wau and Bulolo are cities south of Lae on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea’s mainland peninsula.]

Those likely to be worst affected are PNG Forest Products in Bulolo and the new gold mine project at Hidden Valley in Wau.

The Kumalu River in Mumeng, between Bulolo/Wau and Lae, is threatening to destroy a newly-built bridge and has changed course, running on a section of the Wau-Bulolo Highway.

The river carries tons of boulders, gravel and mud every time it floods and forced the Mumeng government station to close two years ago. Schools, churches, hospital, police station, local level government offices and agriculture offices have all closed their doors and moved to higher grounds near the Zenag chicken farm.

The Chinese government helped to build a bridge across the Kumalu several years ago, but that is now buried under rocks and gravel and the river has changed its course cutting through another section of the Wau-Bulolo Highway.

Fearing loss of business, PNG Forest Products, used its own equipment and resources to build another bridge. That bridge was commissioned early last year.

However, a flood on New Year’s Day saw the river change course again after depositing rocks and boulders in the riverbed and raising the level to only about a meter from bridge level.

Provincial disaster officer Roy Kumin visited the site yesterday and reported that if there was another heavy rain and flood, the bridge could be washed away or be totally covered.

He said the river had now changed course and was flowing along a section of the Wau-Bulolo Highway making it impossible for light vehicles to cross.

Mr. Kumin said several PMV [public motor vehicle] trucks traveling to Bulolo from Lae could not drive through the road-cum-river section of the highway and dropped off their passengers at that point.

January 4, 2006

The National:

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